The controversial proposal would allow school personnel to volunteer to be deputized by local law enforcement to bring guns to schools. "Classroom teachers" are excluded from the program, but drama teachers, football coaches, guidance counselors, principals and other educators can participate. Each county's school boards and sheriffs would need to agree for the program to be launched in their district. But according to the Times:
At least 19 times, employees working in the 'school support' roles that would make them eligible to carry a gun have been disciplined by the Florida Department of Education for threatening students or colleagues, hurting kids or using firearms illegally.In one case, a Miami Lakes guidance counselor threatened to shoot the administrative staff if he had a gun. In another instance, a Port Charlotte coach grabbed a teenage boy "by the arms and throat, lifted him off the floor, and repeatedly slammed him into a wall."
Tampa Bay Times reporters found the cases by downloading and searching discipline files for licensed educators in Florida. The review was not exhaustive, and did not include schools employees who are not licensed, like janitors and cafeteria workers, but who still could be armed under the proposal.
To be sure, cases like these are extremely rare, and would occur in any large-enough group of people. There are thousands of principals, assistant principals, coaches, librarians, guidance counselors and social workers in Florida’s schools. The overwhelming majority never get in trouble.
Still, opponents of the proposal say allowing thousands more guns inside schools would drastically increase the likelihood of something going wrong.
The Times discovered at least one case where a girls' soccer coach pleaded guilty to selling guns without a license, including the sale of an M-11/9 to an undercover ATF agent. The newspaper also found one particularly disturbing incident in Central Florida regarding an Apopka curriculum resource teacher:
She screamed at the students before her, telling them that Jesus was at the school and that Hell is real.
She told the students Jesus wants them to quit football, basketball and the step team. She told them that by the time they got home, their parents or grandparents might have been taken in the Rapture.
She pointed at a staff member and told the students: 'Look at all these demons.' The students were scared; some were crying. Staff members ushered them out. Upset at the intrusion, the teacher called her husband.
'They are doing what you said they would do,' she told him. 'Is that what I should do, then? … Cut off their heads?' Then she went home.
The 19 instances of school support workers making threats or acting violently were included as part of a much larger group of 80 teachers and educators who committed similar violence, including an Orlando art teacher who "threatened to shoot an elementary-school student 'right between the eyes' if he spilled any paint," according to the report. The Times did note, though, that the program has some safeguards, such as requiring school employees to have a valid concealed weapon license, completing 132 hours of firearm instruction, diversity training, a drug test and psychological evaluation.
The measure to arm certain teachers is being considered by state lawmakers in the wake of the mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, where a former student gunned down 17 students and teachers on Feb. 14.
Stay on top of Orlando news and views. Sign up for our weekly Headlines newsletter.